Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 42 (Jack Micheline)

One of a Kind by Michael_Kelleher
One of a Kind a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Micheline, Jack
One of a Kind


Sent to me by the publisher.

I don't think I've read this one.

I remember placing it on the shelf beneath the window when it arrived, as I often do books I hope to get to at some point. Sometimes the books begin to pile up. When the books pile up I start to become anxious. I can feel them over my shoulder as I write. My anxiety grows like a shadow walking behind me with each new unread book I place on the sill. Another arrives and goes on top of the pile. And then another and another. Pretty soon the lower portion of the window disappears behind a stack of books.

One of our cats jumps up on the shelf to look out the window. He has been displaced by the growing stack of unread books. He likes to stick his head behind the blind to look out the window. I don't know why he likes to do this. There is nothing to see out there but the broken concrete of an old driveway littered with fragments of shingles from the aging roof of the house next door. The house is painted a creamy yellow and the paint is peeling. Occasionally one of the neighbors drives slowly past, their car bouncing in the many potholes of the driveway.

Now that the books are piled so high the cat finds it difficult to get his head behind the blind. It's what you call a "plantation" blind. Not a real wooden one, a plastic one white one bought at Home Depot for twenty dollars. The cat persists in its attempt to get a look at the drab landscape out the window. Eventually it succeeds by pushing the blind outward and fitting its body between the blind and the window, knocking the stack of unread books to the floor.

I turn away from the computer screen and stare at the books on the floor. I curse at the cat. I curse at myself for not having found the time to read them. As I pick them up, I admit to myself that it is unlikely I am going to get to this stack any time soon. I feel shame, but I know I will suffer even more if I have to keep staring at the pile of books in front of the window.

My next problem is that the vertically stacked books on my bookshelves are pretty much full. Rather than fully admit I will not read these books, I lay them in an un-alphabetized pile on top of an alphabetized section of books, thinking I might get to them later. Several months later, this process repeats itself.

I get nervous seeing all the un-shelved, un-alphabetized books laying horizontally across the shelved, alphabetized ones. They seem to mock me. I begin re-arranging the shelves to fit a few more books vertically into them. Its a tight squeezes, but I succeed by forcing portions into hidden parts of the book case, where there is extra room, but where the books can't be seen without removing them. They disappear among the others and I can forget my shame for a little while.

And then another book arrives. I place it on the sill. It begins again.

from One of a Kind

Cook It Slowly Mama I'm Coming Home


cook it well
stir up the pot
been a gypsy
most of my life
Gypsy blood
wild eyes
too many robots
iron machines
on the long highway
across the sky
cook it well
stir up the pot
tired walking
cheap hotels
concrete carpets
all night cafés
too many robots
iron machines
Monterey finished
Bakersfield too
shopping centers
airplane glue
clouds are changing
country too
polar blears
mental zoo
Monterey finished
Bakersfield too
shopping centers
airplane glue
cook it well
stir up the pot
tired walking
I'm coming home

San Francisco
October 23, 1986

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